What Went Wrong in 2009: 2b

This is the second part of my series. You can find the first part here.

Last week in What Went Wrong: The title of this series is What Went Wrong in 2009. Why was it that many projections saw the A’s either ahead or right behind the Angels in the division yet the A’s finished in last? As we saw, 1b was the epitome of the A’s season. We expected Adam LaRoche of 2008 at 1b and we got the Aubrey Huff of 2009. 2009 A’s 1b managed to amass –11.0 runs instead of the 16.3 we expected. A’s 1b were nearly 3 WINS worse than expected. In other words, if you expected the A’s to win 85 wins in 2009 (about what I recall expected), and you were given the data from A’s 2009 1b, the prediction would become 82 wins. And that was including Barton’s late surge.


You might think, or at least hope, that one needs look no farther than 1b to see the culprit for our lost season. But that wouldn’t be much of a series! And I’m starting to like making these tables and graphs:

Second base has been a good position for the A’s for the last few years. In the years since 2005, Mark Ellis put up 4.4 wins, 1.6 wins, 3.9 wins, and 3.1 wins. That’s an average of 3.25 wins. It seemed pretty likely that the A’s could get around 3 wins again from the only healthy player who had played with the A’s on their last playoff team (and he had played on the last 3 playoff teams!)

But Ellie did have one weakness. That weakness had possibly cost the A’s a World Series birth. Ellis was, and could be predicted to be, fragile. Ellis had played in 122, 124, 150, and 117 games in the last four years. Ellis should not be confused with Chris Snelling anytime soon but he ain’t Miguel Tejada either. Ellis was averaging around 128 (121 without the 150 outlier) games in years where Bobby Crosby didn’t run into him. But not to worry the A’s now had a backup who had been a starter his whole career! The aforementioned BoCro!

Now when I made my FP predicting playing time, OCab hadn’t signed and Crosby hadn’t been relegated to backup duty but here was my prediction:


Ellis 530

Pennington 90

Hannahan 25

Petit 25

Patterson 20


Since Hannahan would no longer be the primary backup with Crosby and Hannahan on the bench, give Hannahan’s PAs to Crosby.

Again now we can look at better predictors than me:

Projection System Ellis Pennington Crosby Petit Patterson
Bill James .324 .302 .303 None .324
CHONE .326 .295 .296 .280 .312
Marcel .316 .328 .291 .342 .305
Oliver .324 .300 .304 .291 .319
ZiPS .321 .283 .289 .285 .290
Average .322 .302 .297 .300 .310
Average-2 .323 .299 .296 .285 .312


A couple of comments on the table:

The data are all wOBAs. Remember: wOBA is on the same scale as OBP: .400 is really, really good. .300 is really, really bad. That three of the five players have wOBAs have predictions within 2 points of .300 should be a scary thought.

League wOBA was .328 in 2008. Ellis was basically the only second baseman with a semi-respectable wOBA projection for 2009. And even his is on the low end of respectability.

Average-2 is the Average of the three middle wOBA scores. Basically it eliminates the highest and lowest projections. Average-2 should be the preferred projection system for the three guys with very limited major league time. Marcel regresses a TON to league average and/or career stats. Simply look at Petit and Pennington’s projected wOBAs compared to the other system’s projections.

As interesting as it would be to see Patterson get a full season of PT, the projections have pretty much given up hope. A .312 wOBA won’t cut it at 2b, much less LF where Patterson’s defense best plays.

Player PA wOBA wRAA
Mark Ellis 530 .322 -0.47
Cliff Pennington 90 .299 -2.27
Bobby Crosby 25 .297 -0.67
Gregorio Petit 25 .285 -0.93
Eric Patterson 20 .312 -0.28
Total 690 .320 -4.62


The wRAA values are calculated from a league wOBA of .328 (the average wOBA in 2008). The wOBA in the last row is reverse engineered from total wRAA.

We may have been excited to see a better offense in 2009. One thing was clear from the projections: that better offense was not going to come from 2b. Maybe Ellis could pull his 2005 stats from nowhere. No projection system was seeing it. And frankly none but the most optimistic of fans were either.

We’ve now calculated what offense we expected from our 2b. That offensive line was most similar to the Raiders’: it sucked. Just kidding (sorry 67M). The line was most similar to the 2008 line of….Mark Ellis. Ellie had put up –4.7 offensive runs in 2008.

But Ellie had been a very valuable commodity in 2008. How had he done that? Well he had done it on the other side of the diamond: with his glove. Ellie had put up an absolutely remarkable 17.4 UZR. He played 110 DG* making his UZR/150 a whopping 23.7. That 17.4 is in the range of guys like Andruw Jones and Adam Everett. Basically, Ellie was playing defense at a rate only 2-3 players in the majors can do. And that’s not just at 2b, but all defensive positions.

I explained the DG stat last time but in case you missed it: DG stands for Defensive Games. It’s the funky statistic Fangraphs uses to calculate UZR/150. It’s supposed to measure how many "games" a defender saw in a season. It is NOT Innings/9.

Now the question was could Ellis keep up his ridiculous pace of 2008 in 2009? In 2007, Ellis put up 10.1 UZR in 163 defensive games. 2006 saw 6.3 in 116. 2005 was almost the same: 6.3 in 115. These four complete seasons give us about the same amount of information as one and a third offensive seasons. In total Ellis had put up 40.1 UZR in 504 DG from 2005-2008. That’s a UZR/150 of 11.9.

Here’s where it gets tricky. We’ve predicted 690 PAs for 2009 A’s 2b. For simplicity, let’s assume that between those 2b, they’ll see 162 DG. In theory, this would be true. In reality….well we’ll get to that later. So, to estimate the DG each 2b sees we’ll just use the formula PA/690*162.

Ellis’ 530 PAs gives him 124 DG. Pennington gets 21. Crosby 6. Petit 6. Patterson 5. Ellis’ 11.9 UZR/150 gives him 9.84 UZR. Now here’s where it gets extra tricky. Of the four remaining 2b, three had such small samples in the majors that their UZR data are meaningless and one had only played at SS in the majors. Given the uncertainty in defensive data, and the small amount of DG for all of the 2b but Crosby, even Pennington (even if Pennington was a +10 defender, he would only put up 1.4 UZR), I’ll assume that collectively they’ll put up .16 UZR. Since Pennington is a SS and he has the most DG, a slight positive would probably be expected.

Together that gives us this line:

Player wRAA UZR Replacement Positional Total Runs
A’s 2009 2b -4.62 10.0 23 2.5 30.9


Well just as we could have guessed from Ellie’s lines by themselves: we were expecting around 3.1 wins from the 2b slot in 2009. So, what happened? Look no further:


Player PA wRAA wOBA DG UZR UZR/150 Positional Replacement Total Runs
Mark Ellis 410 -6.40 0.310 148 1.8 1.6 1.48 13.67 10.55
Adam Kennedy 222 6.10 0.362 63 -4.6 -11.2 0.80 7.40 9.70
Gregorio Petit 22 -2.00 0.219 9 -1.9 -32.7 0.08 0.73 -3.09
Eric Patterson 19 -0.40 0.302 7 -1.7 -41.2 0.07 0.63 -1.40
Bobby Crosby 17 0.30 0.348 2 0.3 22.9 0.06 0.57 1.23
Jack Hannahan 2 0.20 0.446 0 0 0 0.01 0.07 0.27
Total 692 -2.2 0.325 229 -6.1 -4.0 2.5 23.07 17.27


Okay, so what does all that data mean? Well, let’s start with the biggest piece. Ellis got 410 PAs. If you’re too lazy to scroll up I predicted he would get 530 PAs. So, I was off by 120. Oh well, you win some; you lose some. With the PAs he did get, he put up a .310 wOBA. The average prediction was .322. The difference between the .310 wOBA and a .322 in 410 PAs is about 4 runs.

While Ellis lost about 5 runs from his prediction with his bat, the biggest problem was with his glove. Ellis put up a 1.8 UZR in 148 DG. It’s remarkable that Ellis could lose 10 runs, a full win, off his prediction and still put up a positive UZR. But he did.

Now going into the year, we knew Ellis was semi-fragile. I predicted that the replacement Ellis would need at some point would come in house. I predicted it would arrive in the form of Cliff Pennington. But the A’s were trying to contend, and looking at Pennington’s predicted .299 wOBA, it’s understandable why the A’s would look outside the organization.

Soon after the calendar turned to May, Ellis suffered a calf strain. He was out 4-6 weeks. Beane looked outside to Tampa Bay. He acquired Adam Kennedy. Kennedy proceeded to hit remarkably upon arriving in Oakland. Kennedy hit 448/.515/.655 in Week 7 and started gaining some attention for his remarkable line.

Kennedy was very good with the bat the whole time he played 2b. He of course did not keep up his near .450 average or 1.165 OPS, but he still finished with a well above league average .362 wOBA buoyed by his early season run. That was good for his 6.10 wRAA. His glove really hurt his play. Kennedy had a reputation for being a solid glove and his 21.8 UZR/150 in 2008 backed it up. Of course, his 2006 and 2007 UZRs weren’t nearly as good. But his 2003-2005 were very, very good*.

*Ah, defensive stats, you do love to torture us, don’t you?


In 2009, the UZR again confused us. He put up –4.6 UZR good for a –11.2 UZR. That’s what we’d expect out of Eric Patterson instead of Kennedy. But counting replacement, Kennedy still was good for 9.70 runs, almost a full win. Ellis was only worth 10.6 runs. All things counted, Kennedy has to be the second biggest, or at least, second best surprise for the 2009 A’s.

Remember that expression ‘you win some, you lose some’? Well my wins were the predictions of Patterson, Petit and Crosby. Crosby got 17 PAs. I predicted 25. Petit got 22 PAs. I predicted 25. Patterson got 19. I predicted 20. Combined they amassed 2.92 runs worth of value. I predicted 0.45.

In total the 2009 A’s 2b put up 17.3 runs of value. That was 12.7 runs less than our prediction. If we predicted 85 wins in 2009, the 1b data made it become 82. Given our second baseman data, we would have predicted 81 wins. I’ve only covered 2 positions, but we’re already predicting a .500 team. And I just analyzed a position where the A’s got a very nice surprise in the form of Adam Kennedy.

A's 2b value Looking Forward:

Going into 2010, the A’s have $5.5M committed to Ellis. Kennedy is a FA. Patterson, Petit, and Pennington are all under club control, although Patterson is out of options (not positive on that).

In my opinion, Ellis is a good bet for 2010. His UZR will probably revert back to a +7.5-+10 range. His bat will remain slightly below league average. He looks like a 2.5-3 win player. But because of Ellis’ fragility, it might make sense to invest in a backup 2b who’ll be able to provide what Kennedy provided in 2009. Frankly, I don’t think Kennedy can be that player again.

I see two options since I don’t think any player who we can expect to put up 1.0 win value in 200 PA will accept a bench job:

1. Sign a player who can spend most of their time at a different position and switch to 2b when Ellis is injured. In a perfect world, that could be Mark DeRosa. Another option might be a guy like Tejada or if you think way out of the box Adrian Beltre or Eric Hinske.

2. Go with the in-house candidate. Pennington would be OK (but in my perfect world, he’s part of the trade for Drew/Escobar/Hardy), but the true gem could be Cardenas midseason if and only if he’s ready and Ellis is injured.


Next up: 3b

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